Dame Cicely Saunders devoted her life to making sure people could die with dignity and free from pain. Convinced the last days of a person’s life could be made happy, she said: ‘You matter because you are you, and you matter to the last moment of your life.’
She came from a wealthy but unhappy home and, against her will, was educated at Roedean, the exclusive girls’ school. The shy and gawky child left school with, as she put it, a ‘compassion for the underdog’. She went to Oxford, but left to become a nurse.
When a back injury forced her out of the profession, she retrained as a medical social worker and later as a doctor, largely to study pain relief. In 1948 she fell in love with a patient, David Tesma, who was dying of cancer. He left her £500 to start a hospice - a home or hospital to relieve the physical and emotional suffering of the dying.
Almost 20 years later she opened St Christopher’s Hospice in south-east London, where she died in 2005.